Evangelicalism and Anabaptism have historically described the theological identity of Tabor College. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clarence Hiebert and Wes Prieb articulated this descriptor of Tabor in chapels and in church pulpits. They were quite assertive in their identification of Tabor as an Anabaptist/evangelical school, even stating that Tabor was the only Anabaptist school with this combined theological understanding. Most significantly, these two theological streams were to receive equal importance in our identity with the evangelical descriptor differentiating us from other schools.
The political climate of our nation, combined with the media’s labeling of people groups and voter blocks, has raised the question whether we should continue to use these terms to describe our theological identity. As a college, we become a victim of our culture when we allow these labels to distort who we are and the mission and vision that we have been called to live out. Therefore…
We embrace the term evangelical for the following reasons:
- The literal meaning of the term. “Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The term evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning ‘the good news’ or ‘the gospel.’ Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the ‘good news’ of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.” (https://www.nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/)
- The inclusiveness that it represents. The label brings together many Christian traditions forming a common community around theological convictions, doctrinal belief and faith practices.
- The global acceptance and understanding of the term. Evangelicalism is a worldwide movement that transcends American politics. No one geopolitical region or political party should define a theological identity of the college.
- The affirmation of our constituency. The term is supported by the vast majority of our constituents. It also is a term that the families of prospective students recognize when asking what does ‘decidedly Christian’ mean.
- The transforming power that it represents. Only the transforming love of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Scriptures, which are the core of evangelicalism, can bring about the true transformation of a person. Incorporating true evangelical faith into the curriculum and practices of Tabor College enables us to fulfill our deepest desire for our students.
- The strong compatibility with our mission and vision statements. An evangelical faith is required to fulfill our mission statement and to provide the experience that we proclaim in our vision statement.
We embrace the term Anabaptist for the following reasons:
- The activism it promotes. It encourages people to become involved in helping make the world more as God intended it to be. “True evangelical faith … cannot lie dormant, it clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up what is wounded, it has become all things to all creatures.” (https://themennonite.org/feature/true-evangelical-faith/)
- The lifestyle it calls us to. Living the way Anabaptism teaches is a healthy way of living. It makes for a meaningful and satisfying life that encourages reconciliation and peacemaking as a way of life.
- Our historical roots. The college was founded because of a desire to have a school that teaches and trains men and women a certain brand of evangelicalism.
- The focus on discipleship. Following Christ requires us to engage in a lifestyle that demonstrates the power of Christ in our lives. Being a Christ follower is more than belief. It requires actions that demonstrate the beliefs.
- The positive impact it has on society. Our world would be a better place if as a society we would all embrace the principles of Anabaptism.
- The strong compatibility with our mission and vision statements. An Anabaptist understanding of faith encompasses our mission statement and provides the experience that we proclaim in our vision statement.
Although evangelicalism as a movement came considerably later than the Anabaptist movement, in many ways, Anabaptism can be understood as a subset of evangelicalism. It is common to combine theological terms with evangelical such as Evangelical/Calvinist, Evangelical/Wesleyan, Evangelical/Dispensational, Evangelical/Charismatic, Evangelical/Arminian, Evangelical/Fundamentalist or any one of a number of theological terms that convey an understanding of evangelical. Given our history and scriptural understanding, Evangelical/Anabaptist when combined define the heart and soul of Tabor College’s theological identity.